Earning a Master's in Public Safety Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Public Safety Online?

If you dream of working in a leadership position in public safety -- as a police chief or emergency management director -- pursuing a public safety administration master's degree online could help you achieve your goal. Many organizations value public safety, which makes this degree versatile. Graduates with this diploma obtain jobs at local, state, and federal government departments or find employment with hospitals and schools.

Prospective students considering this degree should remember that a career in public safety comes with stress and significant risk, especially in emergency situations. Public safety professionals must keep a level head and make difficult decisions under pressure; however, many people find the public safety career fulfilling. Choosing an online degree can provide a pathway for professionals working full-time. Distance learning allows for flexibility, which means students can pursue their education at their own pace.

You can find more information about public safety master's degrees and potential careers in the guide below.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Public Safety Graduates

Master's in Public Safety Salary

Potential salaries for graduates holding a public safety administration master's degree online vary depending on factors like industry or years of experience. The first chart below displays the annual mean wage for different industries in which law enforcement professionals work, including state government organizations and specialty hospitals. The second chart provides a glimpse of police chief earnings throughout their career. While mid-career professionals make an average of about $45,000, that figure nearly doubles by the end of their career, increasing to $86,000.

Top Paying Industries for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Industry Annual Mean Wage
State Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals $71,370
Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals $66,650
Local Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals $64,380
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $57,200
Federal Executive Branch $56,620

Master's in Public Safety Careers

An online master's degree in public safety can help professionals working in the field climb to managerial or leadership positions. For instance, a police officer could use a graduate degree as leverage to eventually become a police chief or director of emergency management. No matter the job, individuals working in public safety need good judgment and the ability to make tough decisions under pressure. They should also possess solid leadership and communication skills. Keep reading to learn more specifics about potential careers.

Pay by Experience Level for Police Chiefs

Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $45,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $56,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $86,000
Police Chief

Annual Median Salary: $73,811

A police chief serves as the leader of a police department. These professionals determine a department's priorities, goals, and policies. These might include reducing crime in a certain area, encouraging community policing, or monitoring speeding cars. These professionals also must lead police officers and other employees, hiring, managing, and even firing employees if necessary.

Safety Engineer

Annual Median Salary: $71,063

Safety engineers create procedures to keep industrial workers safe. They identify potential safety hazards and construct solutions to protect the workers. Although safety engineers can find jobs with only a bachelor's degree, several safety engineers also possess master's degrees, which could put them at a competitive advantage when job hunting.

Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $51,410

Probation officers monitor people placed on probation. They visit probationers' houses and assess whether the probationer poses any threat to the community. Correctional treatment specialists focus on developing rehabilitation plans for probationers. A master's degree can help these professionals earn promotions to management or supervisory roles.

Director of Emergency Management

Annual Median Salary: $99,428

Emergency situations, like a fire or flooding, can affect anyone and any place unexpectedly. Police departments, companies, utilities, and hospitals often hire emergency management directors to create a protocol for these emergencies. They develop flexible response plans and must make difficult decisions about how to respond when an emergency actually hits.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Public Safety Program?

Several online master's degrees in public safety offer a specialization or focus area, like public safety administration or homeland security. Therefore, each curriculum plan delivers courses unique to that school's program. The course descriptions below only describe a small selection of possible curriculum offerings, but they give a general idea of what public safety students learn.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Public Safety

Public Safety Law

An important part of working in public safety involves knowing the law. Professionals in this field should understand regulations on gun ownership, surveillance and body cameras, and cybercrime. Students identify gray areas of the law and debate convertial matters. This course often examines past Supreme Court decisions as case studies.

Contemporary Policing Strategies and Issues

This course covers current and upcoming policing theories and practices for modern society. Students learn about topics especially relevant to policing today, like race, violence, ethics, and police deviance. They also examine strategies like community and problem-oriented policing, in addition to the critical debates surrounding these policing methodologies.

Disaster Planning and Management

This course focuses on life-threatening disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. Students learn to prepare for the unknown from a public safety perspective and to develop flexible response plans. The course also goes over how to make difficult and quick decisions in the midst of an emergency.

Emergency Medical Services Management

Public safety professionals often respond to scenes in which a person or several people become injured. This course teaches students how to provide emergency medical care to people who need it. Learners also go over the principles of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in emergency situations.

Risk Analysis

A large part of public safety involves analyzing risk in emergency and dangerous circumstances. Students learn how to identify and evaluate risks, in addition to legal or cultural factors they need to consider when responding. The course teaches students how to strategize when confronted with risk and how to calculate the probability of certain consequences.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Public Safety Prepares For

  • Certified Risk Management Professional: The Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI) International provides this certification. Candidates must possess at least two years of professional experience in risk management and pass a certification exam. The exam covers topics including identifying risks, risk governance and compliance, and risk monitoring and reporting..
  • Certified Emergency Manager: Offered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), the certification application process for this credential requires candidates to take a 100-question multiple-choice exam. This certification guarantees a professional's expertise on skills like running a joint information center and reciting guidelines from the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations serve many valuable purposes. Students, especially distance learning students who do not meet with classmates and professors face-to-face, can connect with other public safety students and professionals. Networking at conferences, local meetings, and other events can help recent graduates track down employment. These organizations also typically run scholarship programs and career centers or job portals. After students graduate, they can keep learning and growing through professional groups' continuing education or professional development programs.

  • National Emergency Management Association: Established in 1974, the founders of NEMA originally met to exchange best practices for disaster responses in their communities. Now the organization hosts forums and meetings throughout the year and runs initiatives like the Homeland Security Consortium.

  • National Association of Chiefs of Police: The NACOP serves as a network of support for law enforcement professionals. The association also runs several programs for disabled officers, K-9 placement, and other important issues.

  • National Criminal Justice Association: Public safety students interested in law enforcement may find interest in the NCJA. This group provides student members with grants, conference discounts, a subscription to the NCJA weekly bulletin, and access to a members-only online forum.

  • International Public Safety Association: The IPSA allows anyone working in public safety to join and connect. IPSA members can attend symposiums and conferences, read research surveys on topics like mass casualty incidents, and access webinars.

  • International Association of Emergency Managers: Emergency management directors and other professionals in leadership positions may join this organization. With members on several continents, the association operates a job board and grants certifications.

  • Disaster Recovery Institute International: DRI provides several services and resources, such as scholarships, certification programs, and online training workshops. The group also sponsors events, including a large annual conference and smaller collegiate conferences at higher education institutions throughout the country.

  • Red Cross Safety Library: The Red Cross publishes a library of resources detailing how to manage a long list of disasters. Visitors can learn about disaster response for chemical emergencies, a heat wave, or a nuclear explosion.

  • National Response Framework: Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this downloadable booklet outlines best practices for responding to several emergency incidents. The guide lays out the responsibilities and capabilities of local and federal government organizations, communities, and nongovernmental organizations.

  • FEMA Children and Disasters Resources: Also a FEMA initiative, this webpage lists several resources to help children and teens respond to emergencies. Professionals can also find information on how to help young people cope with disasters or traumatic situations.

  • NEMA Document Library: Visitors to the NEMA Document Library can find everything from homeland security research reports to guides on Ebola preparedness. This information can aid students in their classes and professionals on the job.